There’s a renewed confidence among Tennessee Titans enthusiasts and the entire organization. After a busy offseason that included more than a dozen free-agent signings, eight draft picks, undrafted free agents and a revamped coaching staff, the Titans expect to compete for a Super Bowl during the 2013-14 NFL season. That comes after a string of four consecutive playoff-less seasons and a six-win 2012-13 season.
How much time will it take before all of the new players mesh together and form a solid chemistry? People who are confident in a quality 2013-14 season are often placing their confidence in the “P” word: potential.
Consider a few examples. Some folks are confident that an improved offensive line and better skill-position players will put Jake Locker in better situations to succeed. That will help him live up to his draft status. Now that Delanie Walker and Sammie Lee Hill are getting bigger roles, there’s confidence that they’ll reach greater heights. In his second season, Kendall Wright has nowhere to go but up. They’re confident that the revamped offensive line will help Chris Johnson return to his pre-2011 form.
No Titans player knows more about the “P” word than Kenny Britt. Before his ACL injury from 2011, Britt showed spurts of his potential in random games. One of the most memorable performances came when the Titans hosted the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010. Britt recorded seven receptions for 225 yards and three touchdowns. During the first two weeks of 2011, Britt had 14 receptions for 271 yards and three touchdowns.
Then came the knee injury in Week 3. His ascension toward superstardom was paused. And when Britt returned in 2012, he was a shell of his former self. Complicating his recovery were surgeries, an ankle injury and an offseason incident that led to a Week 1 suspension.
Nearly two years have passed since Britt’s knee gave out. He appears healthy and has reportedly performed well in OTAs. Along with Justin Hunter and Wright, the Titans are hoping that their concentration toward drafting early-round receivers will pay off for Locker and keep defenses honest when they’re facing Johnson.
Of course, if Britt remains a long-term liability, then even a Calvin Johnson-esque OTA and/or training camp means nothing. Can Britt remain healthy and stay away from the juvenile incidents that seem to follow him when he goes to New Jersey?
Britt has shown signs of the “P” word. What he hasn’t done is show signs of the “C” word: consistency. After four seasons, Britt has never recorded more than 45 receptions or 775 yards in a season. Over a 16-game season, that’s fewer than three catches and 49 yards per contest. Typically, his eye-boggling performances are sandwiched around injuries or a disappearing act.
Skeptical fans have a right to express doubts. At the same time, if Britt were ever going to consistently reach his potential—even if it’s just one season—then there’s no better time than a contract year. If a seven, possibly eight-digit contract doesn’t motivate Britt to perform his best and avoid his 10th police incident, what will?
For Britt, reaching potential isn’t enough. He has reached that on multiple occasions. What Britt must do is prove that he can reach that potential and consistently maintain that level of play. This doesn’t mean 200-yard performances every week (or ever again). It means consistently drawing double-teams, taking advantage of one-on-ones, making big plays and becoming Locker’s No. 1 target.
Will Britt mature into that type of receiver? Or will he continue having those one-hit wonder performances that make him a trendy fantasy-football sleeper pick?